Applying a continental lens, 43.9% of Zambia’s exports by value were delivered to European countries while 32.9% were sold to importers in Asia. Zambia shipped another 23.1% worth of goods to fellow African nations.
Tinier percentages went to North America (0.1%), Latin America excluding Mexico but including the Caribbean (0.02%) then Oceania led by Australia (also 0.02%).
Zambia’s Top 15 Trading Partners
Below is a list showcasing 15 of Zambia’s top trading partners in terms of export sales. That is, countries that imported the most Zambian shipments by dollar value during 2019. Also shown is each import country’s percentage of total Zambian exports.
- Switzerland: US$3.8 billion (41.9% of total Zambian exports)
- China: $1.3 billion (14.7%)
- Democratic Rep. Congo: $857.2 million (9.4%)
- Singapore: $701 million (7.7%)
- South Africa: $439.8 million (4.8%)
- United Kingdom: $353.5 million (3.9%)
- United Arab Emirates: $237 million (2.6%)
- India: $186.2 million (2.1%)
- Hong Kong: $142.5 million (1.6%)
- Zimbabwe: $137.4 million (1.5%)
- Malawi: $84.8 million (0.9%)
- Tanzania: $84.3 million (0.9%)
- Luxembourg: $76.7 million (0.8%)
- Kenya: $60.2 million (0.7%)
- Namibia: $31 million (0.3%)
At 97.4%, a high concentration of Zambian exports in 2019 were delivered to the above 15 trade partners.
Three of the listed countries increased purchases of exported goods from Zambia from 2018 to 2019 namely Malawi (up 16.8%), China (up 14.7%) and Kenya (up 5.1%).
Leading the decliners were the United Kingdom (down -90.8%), United Arab Emirates (down -79.9%), India (down -70.6%) and Hong Kong (down -46.8%).
Zambia incurred a -$259.5 million trade deficit during 2019, a -36.6% reduction from the -$409.6 million deficit for 2018.
As defined by Investopedia, a country whose total value of all imported goods is higher than its value of all exports is said to have a negative trade balance or deficit.
It would be unrealistic for any exporting nation to expect across-the-board positive trade balances with all its importing partners. Similarly, that export country doesn’t necessarily post a negative trade balance with each individual partner with which it exchanges exports and imports.
Zambia incurred the highest trade deficits with the following countries.
- South Africa: US-$1.9 billion (country-specific trade deficit in 2019)
- United Arab Emirates: -$691.3 million
- India: -$296.6 million
- Japan: -$203.3 million
- Mauritius: -$189.5 million
- United States: -$181.1 million
- Kuwait: -$150.9 million
- Tanzania: -$146.6 million
- Germany: -$101.1 million
- United Kingdom: -$97.8 million
Among Zambia’s trading partners that cause the greatest negative trade balances, Zambian deficits with United Arab Emirates (up 92.5%), Tanzania (up 52.9%) and Japan (up 42.1%) grew at the fastest percentage pace from 2018 to 2019. In addition, Zambia trading with the United Kingdom resulted in a -$97.8 million deficit in 2019 in contrast to a $167.4 million surplus one year earlier.
These cashflow deficiencies clearly indicate Zambia’s competitive disadvantages with the above countries, but also represent key opportunities for Zambia to develop country-specific strategies to strengthen its overall position in international trade.
Based on Investopedia’s definition of net importer, a country whose total value of all imported goods is lower than its value of all exports is said to have a positive trade balance or surplus.
Zambia earned the highest trade surpluses with the following countries.
- Switzerland: US$2.9 billion (country-specific trade surplus in 2019)
- Democratic Republic Congo: $629.9 million
- Singapore: $531.3 million
- China: $481 million
- Malawi: $77.9 million
- Luxembourg: $65.6 million
- Zimbabwe: $37.4 million
- Burundi: $22.6 million
- Kenya: $21 million
- Hong Kong: $20.7 million
Among Zambia’s trading partners that generate the greatest positive trade balances, Zambian surpluses with China (up 2,708%), Kenya (up 112.9%) and Burundi (up 11.3%) grew at the fastest pace from 2018 to 2019. Zambia also transitioned from a -$530 million deficit trading with the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 2018 to garner a $629.9 million surplus for 2019.
These positive cashflow streams clearly indicate Zambia’s competitive advantages with the above countries, but also represent key opportunities for Zambia to develop country-specific strategies to optimize its overall position in international trade.
Companies Servicing Zambian Trading Partners
Not one Zambian corporation ranks among Forbes Global 2000.
Wikipedia lists exporters from Zambia including companies engaged in international trade. Selected examples are shown below.
- Chilanga Cement (cement, cement clinker)
- Konkola Copper Mines (copper mining, smelter)
- Zambeef Products (beef, milk, eggs)
- Zambezi Airlines (airliner)
- Zambian Breweries Plc (lagers, bottling)
- ZCCM Investments Holdings (copper-mining conglomerate)
See also Zambia’s Top 10 Exports and Top African Export Countries
Central Intelligence Agency, The World Factbook Africa: Zambia. Accessed on March 31, 2020
Forbes Global 2000 rankings, The World’s Biggest Public Companies. Accessed on March 31, 2020
International Trade Centre, Trade Map. Accessed on March 31, 2020
Investopedia, Net Exports Definition. Accessed on March 31, 2020
Wikipedia, List of Companies of Zambia. Accessed on March 31, 2020
Wikipedia, Zambia. Accessed on March 31, 2020